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Finally made the move to Slovenia and loving it!

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since 21/07/2003


Pri Mraku Guest-House-Inn, Ljubljana 24/08/2015

Great Value in the Heart of Ljubljana

Pri Mraku Guest-House-Inn, Ljubljana Make no mistake about Ciao's odd categorisation of Ljubljana's Pri Mraku, this is a 'hotel' if you really need to define the type of accommodation offered here. This 3 star establishment is situated just round the corner from Plecnik's fabulous university library building (and the other main buildings of Ljubljana's university) and across the road from Krizanke, the former monastery that Slovenia's best known architect re-worked as a cultural centre and summer theatre. In Ljubljana you're never really far from anything and Pri Mraku is a couple of minutes walk from the city's charming old town, the commercial district, the parliament building and the major concert hall, and about ten minutes walk from the train and bus stations. Bagging a Bargain I stayed at Pri Mraku in January 2015 and booked just a couple of weeks before my stay through For a Saturday night stay I paid €60 for a double room with breakfast. January is not a busy time for tourism in Ljubljana (tourists are more likely to be found in the ski resorts at this time of year) but there can be conferences and conventions taking place year round; although Pri Mraku was reasonably busy it was not noisy and crowded and we managed to get a good deal. The hotel website lists a rate of almost €98 for a double room for summer but it is unlikely that, by shopping around, you'd ever have to pay that. Tourist tax of about €1.20 per adult per day is paid on arrival. Children aged under 7 are exempt and ...

Sindersdorfer Hof, Hilpoltstein 17/08/2015

Comfort & Charm at the Sindersdorfer Hof

Sindersdorfer Hof, Hilpoltstein The Hotel Sindersdorfer Hof was our overnight accommodation for the second night of our three day road trip from the UK to Slovenia. Our requirements were that there should be parking right at the hotel, that dogs could stay in the rooms and that ideally there should be a hotel restaurant or a place to eat very close by. We found everything we wanted in the Sindersdorfer Hof and booked through Sindersdorf Sindersdorf is a small village situated 800 metres from junction 56 of the A9 Autobahn between Munich and Nuremberg. The closest town of any size is Hilpoltstein which is 7 km away: it's a historic market town and it's the nearest place to the Hotel Sindersdorfer Hof to have a railway station. Nuremberg is 30km away, Munich 120 km, the Altmühltal is 20km away and the Rothsee is 8 km. Other than the Sindersdorfer Hof - whose restaurant attracts plenty of non residents - the only other facility in the village is the petrol station which has an excellent grocery store. Among the items for sale are a variety of beers and fruit drinks made locally. At the actual motorway junction there is a Burger King and a large coffee shop. The location of the hotel is such that motorway noise is not intrusive; the village is surrounded by fields which was perfect for us as we were able to let the dog run off the lead, much needed after a long day on the road with only service stations for rest stops. There are plenty of parking spaces directly in front of the hotel, ...

Escada Taj Sunset Eau de Toilette 24/07/2014

Taj Sunset Packs a Fruity Punch

Escada Taj Sunset Eau de Toilette For the past few years the fashion house Escada has launched a limited edition fragrance on an annual basis. In 2011 it was “Taj Sunset” and the fragrance must have proved popular because it is now available on a permanent basis. I bought a bottle while passing through some airport or other in 2011; I loved the scent but not the bottle itself because the lid was forever becoming separated from the glass bottle and the liquid inside would leak all over the contents of my bag. After two major clean ups and realising that the lid was not going to stay put, I carried the bottle in a plastic ziplock bag. Since so much had been wasted I was delighted to win another bottle in an online competition but by the time the prize arrived Taj Sunset and I had fallen out of love. The bottle remained unopened in its box until earlier this year when I spotted Taj Sunset being promoted in a magazine article. The photograph that accompanies this review shows my second bottle of Taj Sunset; you’d be forgiven for thinking that I wear copious amounts of this because the 50ml bottle is almost empty but the truth is that this one leaked too. I am reviewing the eau de toilette. Tropical Tang Taj Sunset is a really fruity, vibrant scent and while the orange-yellow glow of the bottle suggests what is to come, the name doesn’t. I’d say this scent is more Caribbean than full of the Indian or eastern promise that the name suggests. It opens with a burst of sticky summer fruit full of mango and ...

Hampton by Hilton Luton Airport, Luton 19/05/2014

Hampton by Hilton Luton Airport - Earplugs Sadly Not Included

Hampton by Hilton Luton Airport, Luton I've used Luton Airport Parkway train station so frequently over the last couple of years that I should really have know that the Hampton by Hilton Luton Airport Hotel is situated just outside the station grounds. However, I am usually transferring straight to the airport shuttle bus which departs from what is effectively the front (and opposite side) of the station, which may account for my ignorance. Since Wizz Air seems to love tinkering with the flight times to Ljubljana I can never be sure of what time I need to be at Luton but in April of this year the timing meant that there was no way that I could travel from Newcastle on the day of the flight. We've previously stayed in the Easyhotel in Luton city centre but I was tempted by a good deal at the Hampton by Hilton on this occasion. Location and access The hotel is situated a couple of minutes from the airport and has plenty of parking spaces. The city centre is five minutes away by car and fifteen on foot; there's also a service bus that stops next to the hotel. You could take a taxi to the airport (approximately £7) or you could use the shuttle from the train station, just footsteps away. We took a shuttle service run by Arriva instead which comes from the city centre and stops just opposite the hotel (£1.50 per person). If you don't want to pay hotel prices for snacks and drinks there's a decent pub five minutes walk away and a convenience store just two minutes down the road. If you want more you need to go to ...

Travelodge Doncaster Lakeside, Doncaster 04/04/2014

Not Quite a Belle, But Great for Rovers

Travelodge Doncaster Lakeside, Doncaster My being able to recall very little of note about my stay at the Travelodge Doncaster Lakeside says several things. First that this hotel is neither spectacular nor abysmal and second that it is pretty representative of the better end of the budget chain. Travelodges can be shabby and even grim, but they can also be clean and comfortable and in just the right location to make them a little gem should you be able to take advantage of a promotional rate. I had an early flight to Warsaw out of Doncaster Robin Hood Airport and couldn't get there in time by train from Newcastle. The airport is some distance from the city centre but the only hotel really close to the airport was more expensive than I was willing to pay. A glance at the Travelodge website flagged up two Doncaster hotels, the Lakeside one being nearer to the airport, between the city centre (three miles away) and the airport (four and a half miles away). Access Buses do run from the city centre to the Lakeside area where you'll find the Lakeside Village outlet and entertainment park, the Keepmoat Stadium (home to Doncaster Rovers) and a business park. Doncaster Racecourse is a mile away and the Doncaster Dome, a popular venue for concerts, is even closer. In the evening the buses to and from the city centre run hourly and as it was a cold evening we took a taxi from the restaurant we'd eaten in. This cost approximately £7.00. Even taking into account the cost of the taxi to the hotel in the evening, and to the ...

The Sanctuary Fresh Faced Purifying Wash 31/03/2014

The Sanctuary - Saving Face

The Sanctuary Fresh Faced Purifying Wash If there's one thing that irritates me it's having to spend money as a result of being dis-organised. I tend to save empty sample size bottles for filling with my own favourite products when traveling but occasionally I don't have a container to hand, or I simply don't have time to fill one before I travel. The problem I had was that I was flying from my local airport to London, staying at Gatwick overnight and flying on to Zagreb the following day; I had forgotten to pack some face scrub and knew that if I didn't use some, I'd be feeling pretty grubby by the time I got to my final destination. Unfortunately the airport branches of Boots don't stock miniatures in the facial scrubs so I had to buy a standard face wash and a flannel. I paid over the odds for this "Fresh Faced Purifying Wash" by the Sanctuary and probably wouldn't even had paid the £9.00 that a full size (140 ml) bottle would cost from that retailer. However, the choice was limited and as I was facing two flights, I could only buy something of 100 ml or less and it had to fit in my plastic bag which was already stuffed with perfumes. This product comes in flip cap tube which can stand safely on its cap when closed fully. The blue tube is simple and attractive, making this look like a quality product. My miniature tube contained 30 ml of face wash. The fragrance is light and fresh, vaguely botanic and with perhaps a very vague hint of grapefruit. The face wash is a clear gel. Sanctuary claims that his ...

Palmer's Daily Cleansing Gel 01/03/2014

Palmer's Daily Cleansing Gel - I Should Cocoa

Palmer's Daily Cleansing Gel The odd storm and some flooding aside, this winter hasn’t been too bad. I’m thinking in terms of temperature and snowfall here: as I spend a lot of time outdoors I’ve noticed that I’ve not suffered from chapped lips and dry skin like I frequently do in winter. Almost as soon as my plane landed at Ljubljana airport at the beginning of February, however – slap bang in the middle of a disastrous ice storm (an hour in the air circling the airport when you are desperate for a wee is no fun, I promise) – my “winter face” soon developed. Turning up at our home in Slovenia I remembered that I was out of face-wash and had forgotten to stock up at Luton Airport (such products are almost always cheaper in the UK). Fortunately my obsession with collecting free samples provided what I thought would be a temporary stop gap until I could go shopping: in fact, I’ve now found a product I want to use frequently. I would instinctively associate Palmer’s with moisturising cocoa butter products but would never have thought of looking for a cleansing product from the brand. This “Daily Cleansing Gel” follows the same branding as the moisturising products, labelled as it is “Cocoa Butter Formula with Vitamin E”. According to the packaging notes it is fragrance free and for sensitive skin. It contains aloe vera, peptides and Vitamin E. I managed several washes from the sample sachet which kept me going until I was able to go shopping but I wasn’t able to find this product in Slovenia. When I ...

Macek Rooms, Ljubljana 18/02/2014

A Kind of Macek

Macek Rooms, Ljubljana Cosy Kavarna Macek (Ciao's formatting does not allow me to use the correct spelling but it is pronounced "Ma-check") is one of Ljubljana's best known and best loved cafe-bars. Situated on Cankarjevo Nabrezje (though the rooms, or "sobe" in Slovene are officially on Krojaska ulica), the riverside on the old town side of Ljubljana, Macek occupies a prime location; the quaint medieval streets are just behind the cafe, while the famous Triple Bridge and the picturesque pink Franciscan church are just footsteps away along the embankment. A couple of years back, Macek Rooms opened. There are five rooms and one "apartment" to rent on the first and second floors of the building. Having seen photographs of the rooms I was quite tempted but the long opening hours of Macek put me off, especially for a summer stay because I suspected that there would be a lot of noise from all the bars in the vicinity into the early hours. When I recently had a mid morning flight out of Ljubljana on a Wednesday, I decided to give Macek a try under the belief that it would be much quieter in winter. Booking and Checking In I booked through Expedia and paid €61 (£50.31 at the time of booking) for a double room including breakfast and free wi-fi. When we arrived at the accommodation we were the only guests so we were given a larger family room which is intended for three people. Since the room size information listed on on Expedia does not reflect my experience of the rooms, I would advise potential ...

Long Player Late Bloomer - Ron Sexsmith 11/01/2014

Da Do Ron Wrong

Long Player Late Bloomer - Ron Sexsmith Ron Sexsmith is a Canadian singer songwriter who until quite recently was greatly respected among his fellow musicians but was largely untroubled by commercial success. Although he has a legion of dedicated fans, Sexsmith managed to maintain a low media profile until the release of 'Long Player Late Bloomer', his eleventh studio album, in 2011; engaging the services of the near legendary Bob Rock (better known for his work with acts such as Metallica - controversially for many Metallica fans - and Motley Crue) which gave his usually low key introspective music a more commercial edge and in turn getting Sexsmith a foot in the door of mainstream radio. Indeed, a frequent presence on the Radio 2 playlist, plus an excellent BBC4 documentary, introduced Sexsmith to a new audience, while a collaboration with the then ubiquitous (mind you so is dog mess in some streets near me) Michael Buble didn't do any harm either. Until the release of 'Long Player, Late Bloomer' Ron Sexsmith had a reputation for rather introspective and slightly melancholy; the only thing that's changed is that Sexsmith seems to be presenting these sentiments against a more polished and upbeat musical background, and perhaps even a sharper sense of word play, not least with the album's autobiographical title track. There's a vague feeling that Sexsmith is happier these days but he is still rather hard on himself even if that comes across as self deprecating rather than self pitying. Unfortunately what Ron ...

Castle Park, Penrith 08/01/2014

Romantic Ruins

Castle Park, Penrith Penrith's Castle Park is situated just across the road from the town's railway station. The park as a whole is a municipal park and hardly different from most municipal parks in that it has a small play area for children, and sports facilities such as a bowling green, tennis courts and a putting green. In the summer a kiosk opens which serves refreshments such as hot and cold drinks and ice creams. There are plenty of handsome mature trees, well tended flower beds and lawns and a few park benches where you can sit and enjoy the surroundings. As the park enjoys a slightly elevated position you’ll be able to take advantage of some good views of the countryside surrounding Penrith too. What sets the park apart is that is also contains the ruins of Penrith Castle. Interestingly this is not the highest point round here so it is thought that this location was chosen because it was the site of a Roman fort and by building here the old ditches and other defences could be made use of. Although the site is managed by English Heritage there are no admission charges. Although you can see the castle ruins quite well from the street. if you want to get up close you need to visit when the park is open. There are winter and summer opening hours which can be seen on the English Heritage website page for Penrith Castle and on the website for Penrith Council. The castle dates originally from the end of the fourteenth century. It was built by Ralph Neville, an important figure in the ...

Aparthotel Stalowa 52, Warsaw 02/01/2014

Style and Steel - Much the Same Thing at Aparthotel Stalowa

Aparthotel Stalowa 52, Warsaw A few years back my partner and I took a half day excursion to the district of Krakow known as Nowa Huta, a town that was built with Russian money as a sweetener for the working people of Krakow. While there we were taken to an old fashioned cafe called Stylowa, one that had hardly been touched since it first opened. The name means "Style" (not too difficult to translate, that one), an irony not lost on those trendy types who like to frequent it nowadays. Towards the end of 2013 we took another trip, this one to Warsaw and there we stayed in Aparthotel Stalowa 52, a name that differs only by one letter from Kawierna Stylowa, and the names could be interchangeable both ways. Not only is the Warsaw aparthotel a very stylish place, it's named after the street it is located on, which means "Steel Street" and Stalin, the Soviet leader who gifted Nowa Huta to the Poles, had a name that meant "man of Steel". OK so the connection is tenuous... Location Aparthotel Stalowa 51 is situated in the Praga district of the city; in the past Praga was a separate city from Warsaw but now it is a 'proper' part of Warsaw. It's a ten minute bus or tram ride to the 'touristy' part of the city but there are a few bars, restaurants and shops in the immediate vicinity. The great thing about the location is that the tram stop is just one block away, as is the bus stop, but the traffic system means that neither passes directly in front or behind the building so it is pretty quiet. There is no ...

Guerlain Mitsouko Eau de Toilette 01/01/2014

Mysterious Mitsouko

Guerlain Mitsouko Eau de Toilette 'Mitsouko' was launched by Guerlain way back in 1919 but was tweaked and re-launched a couple of years back; somehow that passed me by but a fantastic sales assistant in a local perfume store introduced me to the eau de toilette that quickly established itself as my current favourite. I had some money burning a hole in my purse and asked the assistant to recommend something spicy but a little bit different. Among the handful of ideas she came up with was 'Mitsouko': it's generally classified as a 'fruity chypre', a description that misses the mark in my opinion as, to my nose, this is a warm, slightly powdery and vaguely old-fashioned scent that, though it does have the woody greenness that characterises a the chypre fragrances, is more floral than fruity despite a distinctive hit of peach. It is thought that the name Mitsouko was inspired by a story by French author Claude Farrere. The story is set in Japan and the action takes place during the Russo-Japanese wars; the story describes an illicit romance between a British army officer and Mitsouko, the wife of Japanese Emperor Togo. As both men go to battle, Mitsouko waits quietly at home, not knowing which will be the one to return safely to become her companion. The fragrance seems to me to reflect the story quite nicely; though this is a beautiful scent it is at the same time understated and modest. It has an air of formality I associate with the Japanese but a mysterious side that comes from the overall blend of notes ...

Russell Hobbs 18770 Futura 22/11/2013

The Kettle that Needs a Volume Control

Russell Hobbs 18770 Futura Contrary to what some would believe, not all Brits are obsessed with kettles; however, as this is my second kettle review in a short time, I feel it behoves me to explain why I am in possession of yet another kettle. The Russell Hobbs 18770 Futura was bought as a replacement for a kettle from another manufacturer; With a permanent move to Slovenia planned for the first half of 2014 I was fairly vexed at the breakdown of a kettle that was reasonably new when I had planned on that kettle being certain to last until the move, at which time it could be passed on to someone else. It says something about my reliance on kettles that I was able to manage perfectly well without an electric kettle until I had banked a few quid in Amazon vouchers to cover the cost of a new one. Of course, a pan of water requires more attention than an electric kettle so I was keen to get something ordered and installed in my kitchen. I am of the opinions that for some products there is simply too much choice. My only requirement was that the kettle should have a decent capacity, plus I didn't want to spend a small fortune on it. The Russell Hobbs 18770 Futura has a capacity of 1.7 litres and the Amazon price at the time of purchase was £17.97. According to Amazon it is the best selling kettle in its catalogue; I didn't read any reviews but I hoped that if lots of other people had bought the kettle, they had read the reviews on my behalf and were happy to part with their money for this ...

Kokeb Ethiopian Cuisine, London 12/11/2013

Kokeb - An Authentic Ethiopian Experience

Kokeb Ethiopian Cuisine, London Since I tried and loved it for the first time in Geneva a couple of years back, I have looked for opportunities to eat Ethiopian food. Most recently I ate at Kokeb Ethiopian Cuisine in north London. There was actually an Ethiopian restaurant a couple of doors down from our hotel on Essex Road in Islington but it was closed for refurbishment so I had to decide on another. Kokeb had brilliant reviews and even won a Top Table Award in 2011. We booked through Top Table though, in truth, we'd have probably been able to get a table without making a reservation, even if that meant Mother, as the owner is affectionately known by her regular customers, might have needed to do a bit of re-arranging of the tables. Kokeb is located on the Roman Way, five minutes from Caledonian Road tube station on the Piccadilly Line. We walked up from Highbury Corner, a fifteen minute walk; it's also possible to take a bus from Kings Cross, getting off near Pentonville Prison, from where it's a five minute walk to the restaurant. There are very few pubs in the locality and the few that there are tend to be less than salubrious so this is not the sort of area you'd turn up in early for a pre-dinner drink. On the other hand, the Kokeb experience is not a hurried one so you should expect to be in the restaurant for the best part of an evening, in which case you ought not to have another pressing engagement. Part of the issue is that Mother is clearly a woman who finds it hard to let go. Although she ...

Russell Hobbs 18540-70 07/11/2013

Basic Boiler

Russell Hobbs 18540-70 Slovenians don't really 'do' kettles; they use a stove top kettle or they use a very small pan with a pouring lip when making (mostly) coffee. When we bought our first place in Slovenia we bought a stove top kettle which boiled quickly and suited us fine. We took it to the new house and when we waited patiently in the cold house for our heating oil to be delivered, we filled the kettle with water and set it on the hob. When after a few minutes nothing happened I started to swear a lot, alerting our estate agent Marko who was patiently waiting with us to introduce us the oil man. After a few minutes of three grown adults being utterly stumped, Marko suddenly realised that this house had an induction hob and our kettle was not compatible with it. Now if you go out shopping for appliances in Slovenia you will find countless niche products like popcorn poppers, hot dog steamers and electric waffle machines all of which have several brand options, but probably only one or two kettles. In fact we bought ours from the Tus supermarket which had only one kettle available. The price seemed OK and I couldn't be bothered to check the specifications so we stuck it in the trolley. Only one feature stood out and that was the anti-scale filter which is essential in Slovenia where everyone has very hard water. I don't usually focus too much on brands but knowing the Russell Hobbs name reassured me a little as I didn't have time to ask Slovene friends for a recommendation. This kettle is ...
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